Jamie Neish: Thinking outside the box office

Al Pacino. Picture: Getty
Al Pacino. Picture: Getty
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IT’S no secret that cinema has been struggling of late.

With attendance in a slump thanks to the rise of home entertainment that sees many regular viewers opting to stay at home, box office figures have been the worst they’ve been in years.

The decline is forcing distributors – the smaller ones, in particular, who don’t have endless money to spend on marketing – to find alternative ways to release their latest films, as it has quickly become clear that the tradition model is no longer practical in the current climate.

In addition to preview screenings, video on demand and self-organised, self-funded screenings, there’s been a sharp rise in one-off screenings, often held alongside Q&As with someone involved, whether it be a director, writer or star.

Not only does it keep the costs down for a distributor to screen the film once, but it also creates a buzz for potential viewers in that one film is being screened at the same time in multiple cities across the UK.

Recent distributors to adopt this rising model are Picturehouse Entertainment, Dogwoof and even 20th Century Fox, who screened Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited a couple of weeks before its main cinema release to build buzz and create word of mouth.

There’s a host of one-off screenings coming up, too, including a double-bill of Wild Salome and Wilde Salome this Saturday night at cinemas nationwide, followed by a Q&A with star and director Al Pacino, pictured.

The fact of the matter is, the current distribution model where films are tied into a 17-week theatrical run before they can be released elsewhere is deeply flawed.

And while that system may always remain for the films with bigger budgets and bigger marketing budgets behind them, it’s interesting – and satisfying – to see independent distributors do something a little bit different.

Heaven knows it’s about time.

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